It’s Not All Mary Poppins

In which Mary is Most Pleasantly Surprised

It’s birthday season here at Mary’s. Jazz first, three weeks ago; she’s now four. Then Poppy, a newly-minted 3-year-old. Grace turned four last week, and, after a few weeks’ lag, Daniel will turn three.

Jazz brought her birthday fixing with her. Cupcakes! Icing — in a separate container, so the kids could ice their own, what a cute idea! Pretty little cupcake toppers, little wee princesses on toothpicks.

And, and, and … she brought PRINCESS DRESSES! All shiny and ruffly and sequinned and pretty, pretty, princess.

Two of them.


Let’s see. We have Jazz, Grace, and Poppy. Three little girls, all very interested in ALL THINGS PRINCESS. Thank goodness Daniel was not here that day, or there’d have been a fourth contender for two dresses. Josh and Rosie don’t care yet. (Another heartfelt ‘thank goodness’.)

Now, at the point it would be easy to mock dad. What were you thinking, to allow this? You can’t see the problems this would create? Had he allowed the dresses to make their way to my house merely because he lacked the parental balls to say “no”, I would have been annoyed. But this dad? He’s quite skilled. He can say no, and there will be no tantrum. Jazz being Jazz, there might be flouncing and fussing, but no tantrum, not with dad.

Parents who can’t say a firm, unapologetic ‘no’, and make it stick … well, they’re one of the more aggravating realities of life as a daycare provider. Parents who allow kids to bring things because they ‘can’t’ make the child not bring a thing? It happens a lot, and though I find it annoying (because seriously, your life would be SO MUCH EASIER if you just got yourself a pair) it doesn’t cause me any practical grief. Child comes with ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE FOR DAYCARE item — a jackknife, once, if you can imagine! Just a little one, but, people? A KNIFE? To DAYCARE??? Are you insane? And when she stabs someone in the eyeball with it, your excuse will be that you ‘couldn’t’ get her to give it to you? “Couldn’t”? As if it’s optional? It’s a weapon, woman. You are sending an armed child to daycare. You don’t want her to have a knife? You Yes, she’ll yell and fuss. The kid she stabs will yell louder — and with better reason.

Honest to pete. Boggles the mind.

Another time, it was a teeny-tiny china tea set. “This was my grandmother’s; it means a lot to me; I didn’t want him to bring it, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer; please see it doesn’t get lost or broken.” He ‘wouldn’t take no for an answer’? Oh, honestly. From weapons to precious family heirlooms.

It doesn’t cause me any practical grief, because the parent hasn’t hit the sidewalk before that item is in my hand, and the child being informed, as I put it away out of reach, that they can have it back at the end of the day. No screaming, no tears. It’s gone for the day, end of story. And even if there were screaming or tears, that wouldn’t change the fate of that coveted item, not for a nano-second. (Which, if you can logic it out that far, hapless parent, is precisely why there are rarely screaming or tears at Mary’s: they don’t work. If you don’t reward a behaviour, it goes away. It’s not so complicated.)


However. That’s them. This parent is not ineffectual or hapless. He is not off-loading his incompetence on me. In fact, he’s quite respectful of my authority and my capabilities. He explains carefully to Jazz that although she’s brought them here, it will be up to me whether they get played with here.

I know, some of you are wryly shaking your heads and accusing him off off-loading his problem. Sure he’s telling his daughter I have the final say … how does that prove that he has any say at all?

Here’s another story in dad’s favour: Jazz arrived with a ring not long ago. Just a bubblegum ring, but it was Precious. Her Favourite. “Do you want me to take this with me,” he asked, “so you will not lose it?” (Subtext: like the identical bubblegum ring you brought and lost last week?)

Jazz declared that she would keep it, and she would NOT lose it. Uh-huh. Wise daddy followed up, “Okay. That’s your choice. But here’s the deal, Jazz: if you do lose it, there will be no tears, because you knew the consequences. Understand? If you lose it, no crying. You may be sad to lose it, but that is the risk you’re taking. You’ll have to deal with it quietly and calmly.” He’s not saying this in a mean or aggressive voice. He is simply stating fact. If this, then that. You sure about this?

“I will not lose it, Daddy!” Jazz was supremely confident, cheerfully reassured her poor, worried daddy. In other words, she totally didn’t get it … but you know what? When she lost the ring — we knew she would — she did get it. His arrival reminded her of her Terrible Loss, and she raced to him with tears a-streaming. Daddy followed through on the morning’s conversation, calmly reminded her of her choice … The tears did not last long, because Dad was calm and matter-of-fact. Though he was supportive of her feelings, acknowledging her genuine disappointment, he was not supportive of the self-pity and melodrama. All this done is a quiet, soft voice, and very gentle movements, soft touches. It was masterful, frankly.

So, no. I don’t think this particular parent is wussing out and giving me his parental slack to pick up. Which is not to say those damned dresses don’t cause problems. Within five minutes of his departure, there has been one squabble and a fit of tears. It’s drop-off time, more kids and parents are arriving. I don’t have time to deal with this at the moment. The dresses, in their bag, are hung on a hook.

“We’re going to the park in a few minutes. We’ll sort out the princess dresses at lunch-time.” This also buys me some time to strategize, but there is no magical way out of this. Someone is going to have to — brace yourself here — one of those princess-obsessed, willful toddler/pre-schoolers is going to have to COMPROMISE.

Yeah. I know.

Upon our return, they are presented with Jazz’s princess dresses and another flouncy sort of dress from my dress-up box. Three dresses, three girls! Who wants to wear the one from Mary’s dress-up basket?

Yeah. Like that. NO ONE. Mary’s dress was most excessively coveted yesterday, before the advent of Jazz’s shiny new dresses, but now? Now it is Old News. No one wants that dress.

What to do?

I give them an opportunity to choose to wear Mary’s Boring Dress. Nope. Predictable, but it never hurts to give them the opportunity to surprise you. (As I’ve said before.)

Next stage? I pull Jazz aside.

Now, I know some people have the attitude on birthdays that the Birthday Girl gets whatever her little heart desires. It’s Her Big Day, so everyone defers to her wants.

I don’t.

Now, there are birthday treats, of course. The birthday child generally gets their favourite meal for dinner, and there is dessert — cake’n’ice cream, OF COURSE!! There are also balloons and streamers in the birthday child’s choice of (two) colours. There are lots of ways in which the birthday child is made to feel special.

But does the birthday girl get to run roughshod over her friends, because it’s HER DAY?!??

No, she does not. In fact, rather the opposite. When my children were having their birthdays, they were reminded that, as the host, it was up to them to make sure their guests were having a good time. So, if we were one balloon short … guess who was expected to fork over their balloon?

You got it.

[An aside: Is it any wonder that girls brought up with this mindset turn into Bridezilla on that other “Big Day”? Those people sitting in the church are not your ‘audience’ sunshine, they are your ‘guests’. Your job is not to flaunt your specialness in front of them and demand their servitude to your preciousness; your job is to see that they enjoy themselves and thank them for being there.]

I pull Jazz aside. “You know what I think? I think that YOU are the birthday girl. You have those pretty princess dresses at home, all the time. So YOU can wear them any time you like. But Grace and Poppy? They can only wear the dresses today. So I think it would be very nice if you would let your friends wear your special dresses today.”

And I wait. Because this, what I am asking, is hard, and I know it. I wait with a hopeful, encouraging, warm smile on my face. “What do you think, sweetie?”

Now, I am absolutely prepared, if she refuses, to lay down the law. “I know it’s hard, my love, but that’s what we’re going to do.” With recourse to the quiet stair and various other consequences if her objections are too boisterously anti-social. But I’m giving her the opportunity to surprise me! (I think I’ve said this once or twice already, huh?)

I wait, doing my damndest to radiate good will, and confidence in her generosity and …

Jazz, my prone-to-petulance, my little prima donna … totally goes for it. Her eyes widen, and with a dawning smile, she nods. “Okay!”

I am surprised. The congratulatory hug she gets is tinged with glee. I am SO PROUD of her!

And, because she made this choice graciously and without any hesitation whatsoever, she is rewarded. A trip to Mary’s bedroom, where she gets to choose Special Princess Accessories. Being four years old (she’s FOUR now! FOUR!) she chooses a black made-in-India shawl with long fringes at the end, covered with a swirling whorl of red sequins. Because when you are four, BLING is good. And for her skinny little four-year-old arm? A very sparkly bracelet.


She gets these things not because she is the Birthday Girl. She gets these things because she was Kind, Considerate, Unselfish, and Gracious.

She is growing up.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Jazz, manners, socializing | 6 Comments

Menu Monday

First course: chef salad
Main course: stuffed peppers
Dessert: apricot oatmeal muffins

First course: Indian-style cauliflower
Main course: ginger-baked tofu
Dessert: bananas

First course: cucumber salad
Main course: felafels in pita with yogurt sauce
Dessert: home made applesauce

First course: mixed cooked veg with peanut sauce
Main course: Spinach pie
Dessert: apricot muffins

First course: raw veggies and dip
Main course: baked pasta with spinach and chevre sauce
Dessert: gelato

April 29, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

WordPress Glitch

I am having problems with WordPress, so I’ll make this very quick, because goodness knows when I’ll be able to post again…

For the past three weeks or so, I’m having intermittent connection problems. Every single link on my blog, whether to my compose page, my comments page, my About, or Recipes, or whatever … they all take me to my Home Page. WordPress help told me to clear my cache. After a reboot, that worked just fine.

But why should I keep having to do that, every other time I try to log in? I thought maybe it was a browser problem, but a switch from Firefox to Chrome has not solved it.


April 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

None so dumb as folk…

Ads. Internet ads. There’s no avoiding them. They’re in your gmail account, they’re on Facebook, they’re at the top and sides of almost every page out there. For the most part, I ignore them without difficulty.

Except for the ones that bounce and flash and jiggle. Lordy, they’re annoying. You can’t ignore those ones, but who in their right mind would reward those morons by clicking that link, or, worse, purchasing the product? Ugh. Mostly, I leave that page immediately. (Hear that, Internet ad-purchasers? Those jiggly, flashing, bouncing ads DRIVE ME FROM THE PAGE!) If I must stay on that page, I usually put a sticky note on my monitor to block them out.

So, those are annoying. But the ones — it’s a genre, I guess — that have been irking me lately are the ones that promise to tell you THE ONE SECRET YOUR DOCTOR DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW!!!

Because your doctor, you know, keeps secrets from you. Secrets that, so it’s implied, could improve your health. Your doctor, see, even though she’s a health-care provider, a person who studied bodies and health and how to make/keep people well for the better part of a decade … she really, in her secret heart of hearts, wants you to be sick.

It’s part of a massive medical conspiracy!!!

Like, the average eating and exercise habits of the average North American are not enough to keep a doctor busy for the rest of her natural life. Like, the regular routine bumps and bruises, accidents and disease that befall all of humanity are not sufficient fodder for her talents.

NO! A doctor needs to make sure YOU — you there in your armchair, sitting at home, thinking you’re healthy — she needs to make sure YOU get and stay sick.

Hippocratic Oath? Pshaw!

Honest to pete. And you know those ads must work, because they just don’t go away.

There are some dumb people out there. Lordy.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Mahatma Ghandi

April 23, 2013 Posted by | Peeve me, random and odd | , | 6 Comments

Menu Monday

First course: cucumber raita
Second: basil-coconut chicken/tofu
Dessert: whole wheat muffins

First course: Moroccan salad (cucumber-carrot-apricot)
Second: lentil-rice cakes
Dessert: bananas

First course: chef salad and cauliflower au gratin
Second: coconut-lentil soup
Dessert: dried apricots

First course: sweet’n’sour green beans
Second: pasta bake
Dessert: apple slices with peanut butter

First course: tabouli
Second: ginger-baked tofu (They love this. Honestly. They cheer when I tell them it’s on the menu!)
Dessert: gelato

As always, if you’d like a recipe, just ask!

April 22, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | Leave a comment

And the winner for stupidest spam this week…

Is this, which slipped the spam filter:

I almost never write responses, but after looking at some of the
responses here Super Seven, week one � It�s Not All
Mary Poppins. I actually do have some questions for you if you don’t mind. Could it be only me or do some of the responses come across like they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional social sites, I would like to keep up with you. Could you make a list of the complete urls of all your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

Do you have any idea what purpose this could possibly serve? Yes, there was a link with it, a link which we will not be posting or following. So maybe if I’d followed it I’d have found myself at a porn site or suddenly having all manner of nasties flowing into my computer.

But how could this commnet possibly incite me to follow that link?

He/she/it has some questions for me. About what, my post? Nope. About my commenters? Nu-uh. No, it’s a simple thing really, just a list of all my sites. Oh, yeah. I’m going to give all that — which you could find with a quick google search, anyway — to a random spammer, who wants to do what, exactly, with it? Send more inexplicable comments to all those spots, too? And why would I do that?

Oh, because we bonded, of course, bonded by chortling together over the “brain dead individuals” who make up my commenters. I can see no other reason for a random potshot at my commenters. Goodness knows there are blogs out there which attract morons to the comment feed, and I have spent my share of time happily mocking them. (Quietly. To myself.) This blog, happily, is not one.

It’s not mean-spirited, this deriding my nice commenters, no, no, no. Because there’s a smiley after that sentence! A tongue-out smiley, but still a smiley. See it there, so cheerful, lightening the mood so cleverly? So that’s all right, then! This is a nice, friendly spammer, and I can just send all my stats to him/her/it forthwith, without a moment’s hesitation! Maybe I should include my address and phone number, too?

Junk mail, spam. It’s a fact of life, and for the most part I rely on my recycling bin and my spam filter to deal with it all, and think very little of it. But some of them?

Weird. Weird, weird, weird.

April 17, 2013 Posted by | random and odd | , , , | 4 Comments

Introverts, Extroverts, and Manipulators

“I want to be alone!”

I know some caregivers who just don’t allow that. It’s seen as unfriendly, anti-social, inappropriate, and just plain weird. What is wrong with that kid?? “Don’t be like that, Simon. Suzie is your friend! Now come here and help her build her bridge with the lego.”

I am an introvert. I totally get the need to be alone. (We can talk about how the introvert copes with a day spent with in-your-face toddlers some other time.)

So when a child expresses a genuine need to be alone, I respect that. They get to be alone. They do not have to mingle, mingle, mingle, interact every living second of the live-long day. They just don’t. And the extroverts in the group can back off for a bit.

Now, they have to ask politely. Introvert or extrovert, we all need to respect the social niceties. A howl of outrage, a shove and a scream, are not how you get your time away. “If you want to play alone, you ask nicely.”

It puts the caregiver in a bit of a bind, though. You can’t pop them on the Quiet Stair for shoving another child, as you might otherwise do, because in this case the Quiet Stair would be a reward , wouldn’t it? You’ll only train the desperate introvert into bad behaviour. “I need some space!! I know! I’ll just deck little Josh over there!”

What to do? I offer them what they want, in exchange for what I want. “You can play alone at the puzzle table, if you ask politely.” Then I give them the words. Or if they’ve been acting badly to get their quiet, I will require them to play with the others, nicely, for five minutes first. Then they can have as much time as they like, alone.

Because the request to be alone? It can be a real and genuine thing, and you should no more deny it than you’d deny the extrovert his social time. “You want to play with the other kids?? Now, Simon, don’t be pushy! Do this puzzle quietly, there’s a good boy!”

However. There is the desire to be alone experienced by the kid who is feeling overwhelmed and drained, and needs time and space to recharge. That’s genuine and valid, a legitimate need. And then …

Child A flings himself over the pile of blocks. “You go ‘way! I want to play alone!!”

That one’s easy, a clear example of a child who just doesn’t feel like sharing. “Playing alone” is code for “having ALL THE TOYS!!!” It’s not too hard to determine need to be alone from want to have all the toys: Offer the child half the huge pile o’blocks in a private corner. The child who needs to be alone will accept it. The one who just wants ALL THE THINGS will not.

(And if it’s both? He wants ALL THE THINGS, alone? Tough. Half the toys, alone, or none of them.)

And then there’s this:

Child A is in a bit of a snit. Has been all morning. Contrary and prickly, nothing quite right for Her Most Precious Princess. Child A, the Snit Child, plays with the lacing cards in a desultory way. Child B sits down companionably and picks up one of the cards. Snit Child turns her back on Child B with a whine of outrage.

“Noooo! I want to be aloooone!”

Child B, a mellow little thing, gives Snit Child a puzzled look before wandering off with no comment.

Now, if that were the end of it, it could well be that Snit Child has reached the end of her introverted rope, and just needs some solo downtime. But that’s not what’s been happening at Mary’s the past three weeks or so. Just watch what happens next:

Mellow Child B is soon happily involved in some other activity. Snit Girl approaches sidelong, ostentatiously holding one of the Magic Dollar-Store Sparkly Princess Wands. Snit Girl waves it about just within Mellow Child’s line of vision. Predictably, Mellow Child is attracted to the sparkle, and wanders closer.

Snit Child roars her outrage: “Nooooo! You can’t play with me! I want to be aloooone!”

Uh-huh. That’s why you deliberately provoked the attention, because you wanted to be alone. Yeah.

That? That is not valid. That is sheerest manipulation. Snit Child was looking for a conflict, and, when Mellow Child didn’t deliver the first time, she deliberately provoked the attention she wanted to reject.

Now “being alone” is code word for “I’m rejecting you”, or “I control you by not giving you what you want.” It’s really devious. This child has a lot of social savvy. Too bad she’s working it on The Dark Side.

So now poor manipulated Mellow Child really, really wants to play with Snit Child. SC, having achieved her goal of enticing the attention she wishes to reject, redoubles her protests. “No! Go away! I want to be alone!!”

What do I do? I pretend to believe it’s genuine. I pretend Snit Girl has a real and genuine need to be alone. Because, you know, there is nothing wrong with needing to be alone.

“You want to be alone? No, Mellow, if Snit wants to be alone, we will let her be alone.” And then I get Snit Girl all comfy in an armchair, with a blanket and a book and a toy … and then I take Mellow Child a distance away, in the next room but still in view, and snuggle her into my lap for a story. Or take her to the table to colour. Or play clapping games with her.

If Snit Girl genuinely needed time out, this will be fine with her. She’ll stick with her quiet activities, and happily recharge her batteries.

But if she was playing mean girl head games, this will not please her. Mellow Child getting MARY’S attention?? Mellow Child and not her? She will wriggle out of the chair and trot over.

“I don’t want to be alone any more.”

At this point, I can play it either way. “Sure, sweetie. You come sit with us.” The snit has passed, and she’s willing to share time and attention. Good for all of us!

But if she’s been really rotten to Mellow Child, or if I think she needs to be more rigorously deterred from this particular behaviour pattern, I’ll twist the knife just a bit more.

“Oh, no, sweetie. You said you wanted to be alone, and I think you were right. I think you really do need to be alone. Away you go back to your comfy chair. You be alone for a little longer, and when I’m done reading this story to Mellow Girl, maybe it will be time for you go get up. Away you go!” All said in my best, most cheerful “Don’t Mess With Me” voice. (You don’t have a cheerful “Don’t Mess With Me” voice? Find it and practice. It’s an invaluable parenting tool.)

April 16, 2013 Posted by | behavioural stuff, individuality, power struggle, socializing | , , , | 4 Comments

Menu Monday

First course: red cabbage and apple salad
Main course: black bean soup on fusilli pasta
Dessert: Oatmeal Orange muffins

First course: frittata muffins
Main course: veggie burgers, rice
Dessert: bananas

First course: lentil-beet salad
Main course: chicken (or bean) pot pie
Dessert: pineapple

First course: balsamic mushrooms, kale cups
Main course: gyros in pita with veggies and yogurt sauce
Dessert: muffins

First course: cauliflower au gratin
Main course: peanut butter sandwiches
Dessert: gelato

As always, if you’d like a recipe, just ask!

April 15, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment


Want to give the kids a Fun New Exploratory Experience?

Just move the furniture. It really only takes one piece. Take one piece of furniture, put it someplace unexpected. A chair to the middle of the room. Upend a small table. Line the dining chairs down one wall of the room. Do one small thing. I like to do it when the kids aren’t watching, then watch them as they discover it.

Because they will, you know. They’ll be drawn to it like flies to honey.

Here, I shifted bench, that wooden, wavy one. Moved it 90 degrees and nudged it up against the under-the-window bench. Took less than two seconds.MP1And suddenly, it wasn’t a bench any more, it was a Climbing Structure! Much noisy, clambering, jumping, crawling, scrambling, follow-the-leadering fun was had, for at least half an hour.

I watched, monitored, and enjoyed a cup of tea. Can’t say as it was a peaceful cup of tea, but it was hot, right down to the bottom! Which is not something you can take for granted, in this biz!

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Daniel, Grace, Rosie | , , | 2 Comments

Baby, You Can Drive my Carbs

Daniel arrives clutching his blankie, and in full roar. It’s not the norm, but it happens from time to time. Distraction works well, but today neither the dogs, nor the toy trucks, nor a book, nor even knocking over a tower of blocks works.

Time for the Big Guns.

“Hey, buddy? Want some Cheerios?” His wails stop for a split second, and even when he resumes, his eyes meet mine. Ha! I’ve got him.

(Optimal child management? Nope. There is a time to bend those principles. It`s called compromising with reality, or knowing your tolerances. My tolerances a bit low today. Insomnia has me running on about half my normal sleep allotment. I figure I do it rarely enough — compromise my principles, I mean, this is the first time since that linked post was written in February — and since the children are well-behaved, noon-picky eaters, I can cut myself the occasional slack.)

Nor, mind you, do I pretend it’s anything other than what it is.

“Here, love. You sit right there, and I will bribe you with carbs.” Blissful silence descends, punctuated only by the soft sound of crunching Cheerios.

Poppy, a total carb fiend, widens her eyes at the small handful of Cheerios poured out onto the dining table.

“Mary! Mary, I wanna drive my carbs, too!!!”

And so she did. And everyone was happy ever after.

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Daniel, food, Poppy | 4 Comments